The Brilliance In the Mundane

8267730661_0de9200700_nI’m glad we’re talking about success this week after all the doom and gloom of failure.

Because this is the other side of it: all the hardships I’ve endured are worth it for these fleeting moments of brilliance. They’re usually small victories, mundane even. Rare is the moment when I got an offer of representation from an agent or a call from said agent that my book sold. Sprinkled in between are simpler moments that make my life and my passion rewarding in an everyday kind of way:

  • Waking up extra early in the morning and getting a good page of writing done: a perfect start to the day.
  • The spark of an idea, followed by the realization of it.
  • A breakthrough in revision, or in a character’s psyche.
  • A story that surprises me.
  • Getting positive feedback from my writer’s group.
  • Getting constructive feedback and realizing I can make the story better.

There are also small, but less mundane moments:

  • The moment I signed my book contract.
  • The moment I opened the pdf of my book cover.
  • The moment when I realized someone who isn’t related to me pre-ordered my book, simply because it interests them.

There will be huge moments:

  • The day Chasing the Sun is published.
  • The day I have a reading.

But see what happens to that list? It shrinks as you go further down. And what I’m starting to figure out is we can’t define success simply by the rare highlights of our lives. The real meaning—the kind that lasts after the first book’s been released and the signing parties have come and gone and the dream has “come true”—lies in celebrating the happiness in the mundane.

We need those small triumphs to help us build up to the big ones. And we need to savor them because they’re really not so small, after all.

What small triumphs do you celebrate?

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Author: Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at

7 Replies to “The Brilliance In the Mundane”

  1. I think the most important thing is to get pleasure from (and to take pride in) craft.

    You’re not always going to have material success, as you say, and even those magical moments of inspiration don’t come on a regular schedule. But craft is its own reward. Construct a good scene, write some sharp crisp dialogue, tie something back to an earlier scene (but not too obviously), end a chapter in the right place to keep the reader’s interest — those are the building blocks that everything else is built on.

    And, frankly, looking at the other end of things, what’s the biggest thiing? Bigger than getting a contract or having a reading? The thing that nobody seems to even want to admit that they aspire to these days? Immortality, of course — that you’ll be read long after you’re gone. And craft is a part of how you get there, too.

  2. I try to celebrate every little good thing. Otherwise, the things that aren’t so good seem to be overwhelming. Good things can whisper, bad things always scream. So I try to listen very carefully. Not easy.

    Can’t wait to share in some of your upcoming BIG and WONDERFUL moments, Natalia. xo

  3. I love this post, Natalia. It’s akin to the “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” adage that so many preach. And I think you’re right: it’s true. So interesting to see it visually, by your decreasing bullet points. I continue to say it: you’re wise beyond your years.

    I especially delight in the breakthrough/insight to a character’s psyche. Have had some of those eureka moments this week! Priceless…

    Happy holidays!

  4. Amen, sistah! I sometimes forget to celebrate my little weekly successes because I get so caught up in what’s coming that I need to accomplish. I’m always happiest when I’m in the moment, with my writing.

  5. Totally. We have to celebrate the small victories, or the space between victories is too far to be motivating.

    Have you never done a reading? I guess I’m spoiled from having done a degree in writing, because we had to do readings every semester, and then a big one for our theses for graduation. I do them less now, but Chicago has such a large literary scene that I’ve been able to do a few since. You should do a reading! Find a group one in your community or get your writing group together to do one. It’s (nerve-wracking) fun.

  6. I celebrate just about every step in the process. Every draft finished. Every signing. Every little thing that means I’m one step closer to the next peak in the mountain range.

    My husband and son joke about the fact that I now celebrate just about everything – and yet, this business has so many ups and downs that the best thing you can possibly do is bask in the light every chance you get. Life’s more fun that way!

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